Turn Your Breakroom Into a Zone for Relaxation and Collaboration
April 23, 2017
If your company's breakroom goes unused after lunch, it may be a sign your staff is indifferent about the space or overworked. Breaks help employees decompress after long hours of focus so they can return to a project with fresh eyes. Companies with a modern approach to the workplace find that a breakroom can help foster play and relaxation. It also improves worker productivity, as well as job satisfaction. With the right attitude, a small business can amplify this breakroom effect with games, quiet spaces, comfortable breakroom furniture and even decor to help the staff rest and recharge.
Tap the Brakes
Studies show that taking breaks staves off mental exhaustion, which in turn increases focus, productivity and creativity, as reported by the Huffington Post on a Creativity Research Journal study. Encourage your staff to mentally reboot by providing a mix of fun and relaxing activities in the breakroom. For some employees, a quiet nook with a comfortable club chair and a view of the outdoors lets the mind wander and the body decompress. For others, puzzles and games stimulate the brain, opening pathways for new ideas.
Think about individual team members while you brainstorm, and ask for their input. A listening station with noise-cancelling headphones lets music lovers plug in a phone or music player, while physical games such as a magnetic dart board or billiards provide a much-needed alternative to the confines of the desk. To encourage team building, try games that are fun for players and onlookers alike, such as trivia.
A Lesson in Breakroom Tables
Research shows the strongest teams spend equal time communicating in formal and informal settings, meaning the breakroom is just as important as the boardroom. Case in point: Breakrooms create a natural opportunity for your workers to engage with one another. Those conversations can help to solve existing problems, or promote interpersonal connections and a greater sense of teamwork.  Choose a breakroom table that suits the size of your team to encourage idea sharing. Round tables foster communication within a large group, whereas small tables allow for tête-à-têtes, supporting close collaborations and friendships. Consider using both. If your breakroom is on the small side, find a quiet location elsewhere to place a cafe table, such as a seldom-used hallway. Let staff linger by opting for tables of dining-table height, as these suit a more natural seating posture than bar-height tables.
Give your team an excuse to pal around the new table with unstructured events, such as offering free pastries on Muffin Mondays or hosting a contest for who can come up with the best pizza toppings, with a spread of creative ingredients laid out. Don't have an oven? Stock up on mini microwavable pizzas before the games begin.
Fly Your Company Colors
Approach your breakroom's decor as an opportunity to get creative about company culture. Instead of inspirational posters or platitudes, use artwork to explore your industry's history and highlights. If your company has a strong relationship with a manufacturer, seek out compelling photography from the manufacturer's corner of the world. Businesses in the arts can benefit from framed portraits of painters, musicians or journalists, while financial companies might prefer legendary economists and businessmen.
Use a bulletin board to keep staff in the loop with corporate policies and worker's rights. While you're at it, hang a second bulletin board that's just for employees. That way, staff can share goofy photos from last year's Christmas party, showcase their participation in a local charity, or leave a co-worker a shout-out for a job well done. A combination dry-erase bulletin board lets the team do it all.
Organize for Efficiency
Much like a home, a breakroom may be orderly for staff to enjoy it. In the kitchen, you may invest in cabinets to hold snacks, beverages, plates and cutlery. Avoid messy rummaging by using dispensers for K-cups and cans and baskets to group related supplies together. Label everything so staff can do their part to keep order. If you run out of space, move the most frequently used items to a kitchen cart, and maximize wall space by hanging open shelves high up to store less frequently used supplies.
If you don't have a cleaning closet, designate an area in the breakroom for essentials. A mountable rack keeps mops and brooms from getting in the way, and wipes let employees clean up quickly after spills. Assign cleaning duties to your staff that fall outside of janitorial duties, such as wiping down the coffee machine or cleaning the refrigerator. Post everyone's tasks on the fridge so your team can put friendly pressure on shirkers.
When revamping your breakroom, the right attitude is more important than a big budget. Stick to simple, well-constructed furniture that fits your needs and kitchenware you can affordably replace as required. Color can work wonders on small budgets. Opt for neutrally hued walls and furniture, and add bright throw pillows, wall decor and window treatments to designate areas for relaxation or play. Warm colors convey energy, making them a good choice for conversation or game areas, while cool tones help people unwind.
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